What Australia’s new prime minister will do next and why result ‘sends clear message on climate action’

Labor says its policies on boosting care and tackling climate crisis set them apart from Scott Morrison’s coal-supporting coalition

Jane Dalton
Saturday 21 May 2022 23:01
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<p>The devastating wildfires of 2019-20 prompted a wave of support for climate action </p>

The devastating wildfires of 2019-20 prompted a wave of support for climate action

Australia’s prime minister-elect Anthony Albanese pledged to unite the country as leader of the first Labor government in a decade.

In his election victory speech, he said: “Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars.”

During the campaign, his Labor Party made a series of promises he thought would help voters do that.

The party insists that increasing spending will boost the country’s economic growth, and has set out a vision of boosting manufacturing at home.

Labor has said it will work with business to invest in manufacturing and renewables to create more Australian jobs, and pledged to establish a $15bn national reconstruction fund.

To balance the budget, it identified savings measures, such as cracking down on multinational corporation tax avoidance.

It said it would also oblige the Australian Public Service to hire more public servants instead of using consultants and contractors.

There was also a pledge to cut funding pools for community and regional grant schemes.

But Mr Albanese particularly focused on improving the care sector, including childcare, elderly care, and Medicare, the country’s universal health insurance scheme.

Anthony Albanese has vowed to unite the country

Labor promised to make it easier to see a doctor, and to create 50 urgent care clinics. It would mean paying medical facilities to extend their opening hours and range of treatments, to keep patients with minor injuries and illnesses away from emergency departments.

Childcare would be made cheaper, allowing working parents to get on with their jobs and careers. Party finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher admitted it could be a high-cost plan but insisted it would encourage economic growth by getting more parents back to work.

Labor also promised to match Scott Morrison’s coalition’s increase in childcare subsidies by 30 per cent for families with two or more children, and offered to extend the subsidy to families with just one child in childcare. The party also said it would extend subsidies to better-off families.

On housing, officials promised to build 20,000 social housing properties over five years through a Housing Australia Future Fund.

But globally, the most eye-catching difference between Labor and the coalition is the party’s environmental credentials, and activists celebrated.

Mr Morrison, known for his support of coalmining, once took a lump of coal into parliament, and refused to pledge to halt fossil fuel use.

After the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, his government was accused by scientists of being “wilfully negligent when it comes to climate”, and of failing to protect biodiversity.

Labor has a target of cutting greenhouse gases by 43 per cent by 2030, which business groups support, but environmentalists say it should be nearer 60 to 75 per cent.

Mr Albanese wants to spend $20bn to fast-track necessary upgrades to the national electricity grid for renewable energy.

Limits on pollution by the biggest industrial emitters would also be tightened.

The party has also pledged to end exports of live sheep – a trade that has been shrinking and exposed as inflicting extreme suffering.

The new government will face scrutiny to make good on all such pledges.

After the election result was declared, also showing gains for the Greens and independents, Labor former deputy party leader Tanya Plibersek said there was now a clear message on climate action from the electorate.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben tweeted: “In an election largely fought on climate, Australia tosses the prime minister who once brought a lump of coal to parliament.

“A huge win for Greens, and for activists who have fought for decades - and it will matter to the world.”

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